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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Putting the Kids to Work

Utica Elementary School fifth grader Carly Allman (this writer's daughter) poses at her desk before workers arrive to deposit their paychecks. Photo by Ashleigh Emily, 5th grade teacher

By April Allman

It's a Thursday morning. Shop owners unlock their doors and flip their signs to "OPEN," restaurants prep food for lunch service, and employees file into office buildings around the city to report for work. Sounds like an average weekday morning in the Louisville Metro . . . but these employees are all kids, and this city is JA BizTown.

Sam Swope JA BizTown, according to Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana, is a "simulated city built, populated, and governed by kids." My daughter Carly and her fifth grade classmates from Utica Elementary School in Jeffersonville, Indiana, recently made a visit to BizTown to experience a small taste of what it's like to work a job, receive a paycheck, and make decisions on saving and spending their money.

This experience combines in-class learning and preparation with a day-long visit to the town. The children manage the bank, run a restaurant, or work in a philanthropy center, city hall, a realty group, a package delivery store, doctor’s office, media outlets such as newspaper, radio, and TV, and more. It's as close to the real world of business as they've ever been.

From left to right, Ryan Sumler and Jaden Hart present the news while Keleen Delk runs the camera at the TV station.

Teachers Ashleigh Emily, Joshua Emily, and Allen Keith provided the students with their unique job assignments before they arrived — positions ranging from CEOs to CPAs to managers to staff workers, and each had different tasks to perform. While my daughter was busy working as the CEO of the BizTown bank, as a parent volunteer I was assigned to be the adviser to a group of five students who would open and run a Papa John's restaurant that would offer popcorn and lemonade, all prepared by us and sold to the other students on their lunch breaks.

Students are divided into groups to work in different types of businesses. Pictured here, Bethany Clarke assists customers in her job as CEO of the restaurant.

Pictured from left, restaurant group members Maranda Mason, Payton Spencer, and Bethany Clarke fill popcorn orders for Brody Kennedy and Kyron Milburn, while Caiden White makes lemonade in the background. Photo by Ashleigh Emily, 5th grade teacher

For the restaurant group, I was there to answer questions, remind each of them of their specific job duties, keep them on task (which took a little while at first because they were SO excited!), and to run the popcorn machine, for safety reasons. Ultimately, the students had to work together to make the restaurant run smoothly — from ordering supplies to purchasing advertisements from the radio station to preparing the food orders.

Utica Elementary fifth grader Bryson Scales greets customers at the bank's teller window.

BizTown Mayor Jaden Goodman gives a speech to the town.

Students worked their jobs and received two paychecks throughout the day. They learned how to make a deposit — taking their paychecks to their classmates working at the BizTown bank — and how to divide their earnings between a savings account and a debit card they could use to purchase items from other businesses (like the popcorn and lemonade from our restaurant). The kids learned the value of balancing their checkbooks and being fiscally responsible.

Hayden Bartle, Jake Helton, Cort Cannon, Cameron Crawford, and Colin Hawkins input inventory and sales information into the computer. Photo by Ashleigh Emily, 5th grade teacher

The time went by very quickly, and all of the kids seemed to have a good time. The restaurant crew was dedicated to doing a good job, and they all took their tasks seriously while still having fun. If they decide to continue in that line of work one day, I'll be proud to eat in any of their restaurants.

 Kid's Eye View:   By Carly Allman, 10, fifth grader

"BizTown was fun and you felt like you had a real job. As the CEO of the bank, I got to do a lot of work, sorting out bills and deposits and talking to people, and signing documents. At times it was stressful, but overall I had a good time. With some of the money from my paycheck, I bought a stress ball from the BizTown doctor's office. I thought it would be a good thing for a Bank CEO to have. And I used it."

April Allman is a graphic and web designer for Today's Family, and the burner of a batch of popcorn at BizTown. (Thanks to restaurant CEO Bethany Clarke for not firing me.) Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana is located at 1401 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd, in Louisville. Click here for more information.


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